Narooma – Seaside town of secrets

I’m not a great tourist. Since my teens, I’ve tended to drift in and out of towns and entire countries and failed to do the things that most other people enjoy. But I genuinely admire people who have an instinct for tourism.

I know it’s popular to bag tourists in some circles but tourism, at its best, is about being infinitely curious about the world and seeking out experiences that enrich your understanding. So now I try and do at least one or two genuinely touristy things in a new town before I lapse back into my usual routines, back to the comfortable landscape inside my head and the blank pages waiting to be filled with words.

The Professor and I arrived in Narooma late yesterday afternoon after driving up the windy coast road from Bournda National Park. The show in Merimbula on Saturday went well but was a little disappointing in that the crowd was smaller than we’d expected both in size and numbers. There was a clutch of noisy pre-schoolers and not enough schoolage kids. Who needs puppets when you have toddlers somersaulting in front of the booth?

We stopped in Bermagui on our way up the coast road, principally to check out the Zane Grey Tourist Park. It is one of the select few tourist parks in Australia named after an author (there’s a Henry Lawson caravan park in Gulgoa and a Banjo Patterson caravan park in the Snowy Mountains). I can’t imagine there’ll ever be a Kirsty Murray Tourist Park.

Bermagui has a reasonable entry in the Oxford Literary Guide to Australia but Narooma doesn’t crack a mention. It describes itself as a sleepy fisherman’s haven. The town sprawls across the hills around the inlet. There’s also a gorgeous long jetty where the Professor and I sat this afternoon to eat our fill of local oysters.

In the water, not far from the jetty, a seal was showing off his stye for a group of tourists. You probably can’t quite make him out from the first photo. Every few minutes he’d roll over and wave in a leisurely fashion. A huge stingray circled him, just beneath the surface of the water, like a shadowy underwater understudy. Even an expert photographer would have had trouble capturing the two sea creatures and the strange interplay of their movements.

Towns like Narooma seem to shimmer with untold stories. I have no idea what the characters might be like – whether they revolve around the thousands of families that visit here every summer or are about the locals, so many of whom seem to live their lives around the ebb and flow of the tides. But I wish someone else would write them. I’d like to read them.

Kirsty is an Australian author of books for children and young adults.

“Books are windows into other ways of being.”

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